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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Nonprofit, not non-business

In Business, Media, nonprofit on 5 Oct 2018 at 6:52 pm

The nonprofit news is in and the word is good. OK, promising.

The Institute of Nonprofit News released findings from a landmark survey of its members at meetings on both coasts on Friday. The announcement at Stanford was hosted by the JSK Fellowship program and a few dozen funders, publishers and journalists were in attendance to hear that business models were maturing and that local, statewide and even global operations were doing more to diversify their revenue streams. It was good to hear that so many of these important news sources are reaching sustainability.

The survey included 88 journalistic nonprofits that answered questions in spring of 2018. It collected 200 data points and is the most comprehensive study of the space to date.

Some facts:

  • Three-fourths of the nonprofits surveyed are less than 10 years old.
  • Together, they boast annual revenues of about $350 million.
  • About 3,000 people work for these entities; 2,200 are journalists.
  • More than half focus on investigations or analysis and nearly three-fourths cover some aspect of government policy. …

Following steep cutbacks in the for-profit industry, the nonprofit sector exploded around 2010. Too many began with an initial grant and no plan beyond that. Those that remain increasingly seek to diversify their revenue streams and to be less dependent on a single, often issue-oriented, foundation or donor. Researchers for INN found that organizations that are more than a decade old have more online reach, higher budgets and spend about twice as much (though still only 15 percent of revenues) on revenue generation efforts.

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Wear the T-shirt

In Business on 28 Dec 2017 at 1:57 pm

A few years ago, my publisher got us each a blue T-shirt with the Half Moon Bay Review’s logo written across the front. He thought we might wear them to events the newspaper sponsored and so on. I didn’t like it. I didn’t wear it.

I didn’t get it.

But I do now. The reason I didn’t get it is rooted in a cancerous mindset that was instilled in journalists of a certain era. The inability to “stoop” to branding continues into the new millennium, and can be seen in all sorts of misbehavior. Many journalists still disdain social media. They don’t return complaining emails. They eschew reader comments as somehow beneath them.

Journalists are observational by birthright. If you aren’t paying attention to the unspoken signals around you, you aren’t much of a journalist. It helps you understand the dynamics of a government meeting, what’s going on behind the scenes on the campaign trail and many other subtle but telling points necessary to tell the truth. And, as a young journalist in the 1980s, I couldn’t help but observe that cynicism was the default mode of virtually all of my peers. It’s partly a defense mechanism. You can’t take seriously all of the terrible things you see. Part of the problem is due to conflating cynicism with skepticism. If your mother says she loves you, by all means, check it out, but you don’t have to roll your eyes and be an ass while you’re at it. … Read the rest of this entry »

On being customer ‘obsessed’

In Business on 16 Mar 2017 at 3:18 pm

This week I was struck by something Jed Williams said in the February edition of Editor and Publisher magazine.

Williams is the chief innovation officer at the Local Media Association, which counts Wick Communications newspapers among its members. For the magazine’s Wise Advice column, he was asked a single question: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?”

Williams’ answer:

“Be customer obsessed, not competitor obsessed.”

He goes on to say that “obsessed” is not “focused.” It’s … obsessed. It is the reason you come in to work in the morning. He says you have to actually solve problems for customers, be they readers who need timely information or advertisers who need to move the needle on their businesses.

Williams says the key is empathy, which is something I’ve said again and again even as I understand it’s easier said than achieved. Believe me: I’ve failed repeatedly in various quests to empathize with our customers. I’ve failed to follow through with some design-thinking ideas. I’ve failed the obsessions test in dealing with Half Moon Bay Review customers who walk through the door with a problem. If you’ve ever walked past someone at the front counter who wanted to buy a newspaper or talk to an ad rep or ask how to get an event covered, you too have failed to be obsessed enough with our customers. Welcome to the club.

Ultimately, our success or failure will be found in relation to our ability to solve customer problems and that requires empathizing with their individual problems. … Read the rest of this entry »

Carry a marshal’s baton

In Business on 12 Jan 2017 at 2:46 pm
Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

When I was working as a young journalist in Georgia, the name Conrad Fink was legendary. And not just for those amazing eyebrows. By then, he had been a journalism professor at the University of Georgia for three decades. He was a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and eventually a vice president of the news service. He wrote a dozen books.

One of them was called, “Strategic Newspaper Management” and it was published in 1988. When you think of all that has changed on the media landscape since then (he writes that he expects the boom times for newspapers to continue for decades… whoops), it’s interesting to note what hasn’t changed. Specifically, the need for newspaper managers to plan for the future, to understand that top-down edicts will draw eye rolls, and the hope that young reporters consider the future. The book is sort of dedicated to that last belief. It begins:

Many of Napoleon’s foot soldiers, it is said, carried marshal’s batons in their knapsacks, such was the French leader’s reputation for spotting and promoting talent in the ranks…
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The career ladder

In Business on 28 Apr 2016 at 4:49 pm

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 4.48.42 PM

There is a really terrific Q&A on the Poynter site this week, and it deals with journalism careers and what employers want these days. (No, we don’t want to lose any of you, but we do want you to excel and excelling at Wick and becoming appealing to other news organizations look very similar in practice.)

You should read Benjamin Mullin’s piece. It’s a discussion with Mark Stencil, of the Duke Reporter’s Lab, about what it takes to get your foot in the door in a changing marketplace.

A couple of takeaways:

You don’t have to do everything. Many want ads these days look like a laundry list with every possible journalism and engineering talent required. So many of them say you have to be a writer, a visual storyteller, a coder, a marketing expert, a brander, a social media maven, a metrics analyst… Don’t believe it. Those kind of journalistic superheroes are pretty rare. The rest of us find jobs too. … Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching this journalism thing

In Business on 6 Mar 2014 at 5:08 pm

mission local

Last week was a rough one for college journalism programs. First, because it seems ever more of them are deciding the very word “journalism” is anathema to their survival. I see you, West Virginia University! And secondly, because of the reconsideration of journalistic “teaching hospitals.”

In their struggle to remain relevant, J schools are doing what we newspaper types are doing: Namely, changing a lot and sometimes in ways that make no sense. More than five years ago, smart J school administrators at places like the University of California, Berkeley, started websites to give their students real-world opportunities to learn the craft by doing. These were equated to teaching hospitals and medical schools. It makes perfect sense. Kid smart young students the keys to a new website, social media tools, video, audio and print and let them learn as they go. Well, the cost of running those operations is giving administrators heartburn.

Cal Dean Edward Wasserman said last week that the arrangement no longer works for the nation’s premier public university, at least not at Mission Local, which the school has run for years. He notes that the university pays for the site year round even though its students only really benefit for a fraction of that time. He points out that the site is based in San Francisco while the university is across the bridge in Berkeley. And so forth. But as Lance Knobel points out on the Nieman Lab site, Wasserman misspoke when he suggested that marketing and audience building and branding are ancillary to what a journalism school does. In fact, these are the new skills our best journalism schools must teach. I won’t simply repeat Knobel’s excellent post, but I think he is absolutely correct. … Read the rest of this entry »

Imagine a better way

In Business on 16 Jan 2014 at 12:43 pm
Edmund Phelps

Edmund Phelps, courtesy Columbia University

Have you ever heard of “hatereading?” I hadn’t either, but I sure knew what it was the minute I read the definition.

It is outlined in a long but deeply interesting blog post by Caroline O’Donovan for the Nieman Journalism Lab. O’Donovan reveals the interesting tale of Rusty Foster, a webizen who turned his snarky blog of links into gold by selling it to Newsweek.

It’s interesting on its face. The truth is that we seem to be drawn to two kinds of speech on the Internet. There is that stuff with which we wholeheartedly agree (political posts that conform to our point of view and cat videos, apparently). But we also love to read stuff that sets us off … hence the term hatereading.

I also wanted to make another comment about the Rusty Fosters of the world. You can’t call what they do journalism, but you have to credit them with innovative thinking. We could use more of that. … Read the rest of this entry »

Opportunities the world over

In Business on 18 Oct 2013 at 8:27 am
Anette Novak, INMA

Anette Novak, INMA

The Internet, of course, is worldwide – hence, the worldwide web. Yet, sometimes we think of the possibilities in terms of what we see in English or even just the United States.

This week, I happened on a blog post written by Anette Novak, CEO of Interactive Institute Swedish. According to a short bio, Novak’s company conducts world-class applied research and innovation and creates groundbreaking user experiences. Whatever that means.

But Novak is also a former editor and current media consultant. Which means she comes from a place we can all understand. In a blog post posted to the International News Media Association website, Novak argues that the future belongs to news media that goes beyond a catalog of breaking news events. She presents a list of “hidden opportunities” for news professionals going forward.

Some of them – more and better op-eds, investigative journalism and local calendars – are things we’ve talked about before. But she also suggests a range of digital opportunities that we have largely ceded to Facebook and others with no understanding of our own communities. I’ll leave it to you to read what she has to say. … Read the rest of this entry »

An eye on juxtaposition

In Business on 26 Apr 2013 at 9:28 am


I’m not quite sure what to say about the image at top. It’s the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s story on the pressure-cooker bombings in Boston … above an ad for a sale on pressure cookers. Oh boy.

We will probably all agree this is, shall we say, less-than sensitive to the sensitivities of a nation on edge after the deadly bombings. Readers won’t be mollified by a cumbersome explanation of the separation of ad and news departments or that responsible eyeballs were elsewhere then the page was put together. They will simply think editors foolish.

And the Star-Tribune wasn’t alone. The New York Times heard from readers about an online ad that ran next to its coverage from the Boston bombings. (I was fascinated by the discussion in the column and the mere fact that the New York Times has something called a director of advertising acceptability. I think the ombudsman and ad guys are wrong; I would have erred on the side of sensitivity rather than commerce that day.)

Let’s carry it one step further. Have you ever run, say, a story about a cancer survivor on a page otherwise covered in obits, or maybe a story about the children’s theatrical production next to a story about a child predator? I’m sure I have done things like that in my long career.

In a way, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these juxtapositions. It is more a matter of tone and sensibility.

It is also a breakdown in packaging. I try to group school stories together. When possible, I put stories about the environment on the same page. In other words, I try to make navigation through the newspaper easier for readers with particular interests. And I try to keep really disparate things apart – like briefs full of children’s happenings and hardened crime stories. I think of it sort of like a color palette. Your living room may be earth tones; your bathroom pastels. … Read the rest of this entry »

Giving them the business

In Business on 25 Oct 2012 at 2:20 pm

Today, I took a moment to read a Q&A with Scott Nelson, who is the business editor at the Portland Oregonian. I had the pleasure of meeting him at an American Press Institute gathering in 2011 and am always impressed with what he has to say about newspapers generally, and specifically, how to bring home business coverage to a sophisticated readership. If you’ve never seen it, the Oregonian is unquestionably one of the great newspapers in the country.

I was taken with the newspaper’s commitment to consumer news. Scott takes a moment to mention the good work of Laura Gunderson, so I thought I would have a look see at what she is doing right.

She’s on Twitter, of course. (She does one thing in her profile that I thought was a great idea. @LGunderson writes, “I retweet out of interest, not endorsement.” Perhaps we should all add such a line.)

She also contributes to The Window Shop blog on the newspaper’s website. The blog appears to be updated every day with mostly breezy things. But sometimes, it tackles fairly complex stories, like the mix of department stores and what is working in that marketplace. … Read the rest of this entry »